Almost 60 years after getting her first lifesaving award, Marie Baker has received her highest honour yet.

The Whanganui woman has been named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours.

The award, for services to lifesaving and swimming, comes on the back of more than five decades of service.

Read more: Whanganui police officer Tracy Phillips recognised in Queen's Birthday honours


Since that first award in 1959 she has held roles as an instructor, field officer, education officer, secretary, chief examiner and has travelled the country teaching the discipline to others over the course of her career.

Baker, who moved to Whanganui in 1980, has also spent more than a quarter of a century as a swimming teacher and has been a tutor for Swimming New Zealand since 1994.

Her decades of service have earned her numerous awards including the Commonwealth Council Service Cross and the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Local Hero Award in 2016.

She was made an Honorary Vice President of the Commonwealth Life Saving Society in 2014.

"I'm absolutely stoked," she said at the time.

"I've got a passion for lifesaving and a passion for swimming and aquatics generally. I've had a lifetime of it and enjoyed tutoring for Swimming New Zealand."

Baker is also a cancer survivor and been involved with the Cancer Society as a mentor and counsellor for women with breast cancer.

She is the current president of Royal Life Saving Society New Zealand (RLSSNZ), a role she took on after heading up the Whanganui branch.

After the destruction of the RLSSNZ's national headquarters in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake she undertook the challenge of rebuilding the society, forming a new Board of experienced personnel in late 2011.


She has led RLSSNZ's partnerships with Swimming New Zealand, Surf Lifesaving New Zealand, and Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ).

As the Society's delegate to WSNZ from 2012 she contributed to the development of WSNZ's integrated sector plan to reduce drowning nationally.